After assessing the findings of a phone survey of 400 property owners in the district, the Yosemite Unified School District at this time will not be placing a bond measure on the November ballot.
The district hired Jon Isom of Isom Advisors, a division of Urban Futures Inc., headquartered in Walnut Creek, to conduct the survey to assess support for the proposed measure, that in one form, would generate about $39 million in funding over 35 years to modernize and upgrade facilities and equipment throughout the district.
The survey, conducted Jan. 16 - 25, tested voter attitudes regarding the district, projects to be funded by the proposed measure, and tax tolerances by those who would vote for or against the measure.
Interim District Superintendent Mike Berg said a bond is currently not a district priority.
“It is essential that we complete our work to certify a positive budget before June 30 to assure we get a positive bond rating,” Berg said. “The better one’s bond rating, the lower the finance cost thus saving local taxpayers expense while issuing the same amount of bonds.”
Berg said the district will ultimately need bonds for the necessary upgrades, which include repairing or replacing leaky roofs, upgrading heating and air conditioning systems and upgrading classrooms and bathrooms.
“But there are other financing mechanism that can be used until the district can get an optimum return on taxpayers dollars while issuing the same amount of bonds,” Berg said. “We will adequately fund routine maintenance and deferred maintenance in our positively certified budget to ensure we can maintain the communities assets while still reducing layoffs and maintaining programs.”
After providing information on the option of not increasing the tax rate, but extending the current tax rate for an additional 35 years, the approval rate of respondents to the survey was 61%, with 5% leaning towards yes (66%).
“Traditional wisdom and trends indicate that to pass a bond one needs at least 65 - 70% approval on a poll to get the 55% at the ballot box,” Berg explained. “The only option that polled positively was the ‘tax extension’ option and it was not at a substantial margin - we are not there yet.”
The survey, conducted over a 10-day period in mid-January, showed that voters were sensitive to higher tax rates, but were supportive of a tax rate extension.
When presented with the option of having the bond increase the tax rate to homeowners from $42 to $60 per $100,00 assessed value, the approval rate dropped to 42% for the measure, with 5.3% leaning towards yes (47.3 %).
Isom said his company’s approach to bond programs has been to listen to the community and bring to the voters a program that they are willing to accept.
“The schools belong to the community, the tax dollars belong to the community, so the bond program should belong to the community and reflect their wishes,” Isom stated in the report. “I believe a tax rate extension reflects their wishes based on the survey.”
Other phone survey findings
☆ In general, 66% of those surveyed felt education in California is heading in the wrong direction, while 21% felt it is heading in the right direction, 13% undecided.
☆ Because the state continues to reduce funding for public education, local voters need to do more to protect the quality of educational facilities in local public schools: 79% agree, 17% disagree, 4% undecided.
☆ Rate the education provided by the Yosemite Unified School District: 12% excellent, 39% good, 28% fair, 8% poor, 1% very poor, 12% undecided.
☆ Good schools improve property values: 90% agree, 6% do not agree, 4% undecided.
☆ Most improvement projects (repair or replace leaky roofs, security improvements, more handicapped accessibility, upgrade electrical, replace outdated heating and AC systems) received 55% or higher voter support.
☆ Do you believe local voters need to do more to protect the quality of educational facilities in local schools? 79% yes.
☆ 59% of survey respondents either currently have children attending school in the district, or have had children in the past attend school in the district.